Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Copper thefts and the birth of identity management

There's an interesting story in Network World titled: "Rewards grow to quash copper cable thefts." Basically, scrap copper is going for $4/pound and "bandits" are stealing copper communications cable.

This isn't a new activity by any means. When I worked for the International Development Research Center in Ottawa (1989-1993) we deployed a Banyan VINES network that spanned the globe - including Nairobi, Kenya. Our network went down to Nairobi one day and we couldn't contact the office by telephone. However, a telex (remember those?!) came in one day saying a few miles of copper telephone cable had been "stolen" and they'd be down for a few weeks while it was replaced.

So what's the connection to identity management? In those days we had a directory synchronization product built by ZOOMIT (who I joined in '94) that would sync Ottawa and all the regional offices around the world. So while Nairobi was down things just kept synchronizing across all the other offices, including with Ottawa.

The big problem came when Nairobi came back on line. There were a ton of synchronization events queued for Nairobi and, of course, events in Nairobi that were queued to go to Ottawa and the other offices. Some of the updates walked over each other - a new user provisioned for Nairobi prior to the copper theft was deleted on the Nairobi side, updates were made on the Ottawa side and when the connection was set back up the synchronization couldn't resolve the differences.

This was one of those moments where Kim Cameron and myself both realized the world needed something more than just "directory synchronization". All because of the theft of some copper cable...

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1 comment:

Dave Kearns said...

If you'd only been running NDS (precursor to eDirectory) this never would have happened, you would have never had an Aha! moment and history would be very different...